After spending 4 days attending the annual Bowhunting Round Table at PASA Park in Barry, Illinois, I have officially joined my arrow-slinging brothers in arms. I also now carry the nickname of Knight Ranger.
In case you didn't catch on by now, hunting is as much a part of my blood as plasma and the color red. I do my hunting with firearms; however, I've been meaning to pick up the stick and string for years. The Bowhunting Round Table presented the perfect opportunity for me to commit to life as an archer.
The 4-day event gives the "knights" of the outdoor media (primarily archery-focused editors) the opportunity to sit down with manufacturers in a "round table" format to get insider access to the most up-to-date items available in the archer's armory. (I'll share some of my cool finds and info later, but for now I want to start by telling all you bowhunters out there how stoked I am to finally join you.)
The event started with a "shoot off." All us media folks individually ran through a series of shooting stations. The first was a buck target at 15 yards we had to shoot with a recurve bow. The second station was a 30-yard shot at another buck target, but with a compound bow. At the third station we shot a crossbow out of a ground blind at a 30-yard black bear target (for some reason it had antlers, so it was deemed a "beer"). For the final station we had to sit on an exercise ball and take a 30-yard crossbow shot at a hog target. The goal was speed and accuracy. I clumsily made my way through, but achieved notable head-shot accuracy on the first target with the recurve. I meant to do that. I let a few guys think so, anyways. (That shot was talked about for the next 3 days.)
I was planning to begin blazing my bowhunting path this year with an old hand-me-down Martin compound bow my uncle gave me a while back. The guys at the office joked that it belongs at the Smithsonian, and not in the field. A fine gentleman from BowTech by the name of Sam (the only Irish, "country boy" hunter you'll probably ever meet) heard I was getting on board with archery, so he graciously offered to borrow me a BowTech Invasion CPX for the year.
I was very appreciative of his offer, but was concerned the bow might not feel "right." Thankfully, that was absolutely not the case. I had the chance to shoot many different bows from many different manufacturers at the Round Table, and with 100-percent honesty I can say the bow Sam offered me feels like a custom-fit glove. Am I saying that because Sam pulled me into a room, shut the door, came forehead to forehead with me and told me I'd better talk nice about BowTech all year—not for a second. Sure, some of the other bows felt "good" to my novice hands, but the BowTech felt great. I'll put that on my grave.
Of course, he wasn't about to just hand me a brand-new bow to keep forever just because I'm an editor; that's not how things work, despite what you've heard. There were conditions involved, and they are as follows: I must share my journey into bowhunting with others by educating, informing and positively encouraging the great sport; have fun; don't take myself too serious; and give the bow back at the end of the year (unless I want to purchase it).
By the end of August I hope to combine two "firsts": Go on my first black bear hunt and kill my first animal with a bow. So, until fall rolls around I'll fly primarily under the wing of my cohort and new archery mentor, NAH Senior Editor Luke Hartle. I'm hoping that by the time I step foot in Maine at Spruce Mountain Guide Service this year, I'll be a fully trained archer knight, ready to go medieval on a big black bruin.
P.S. About the nickname "Knight Ranger": I was hanging out with Luke, Sam and a few other fine gents one night after the Round Table at a local pub. It was karaoke night. My "friends" ganged up on me, threw money on the table and all but forced me to sing. I chose the song "Sister Christian" by the popular 80s band, Night Ranger. I guess that was my "price for flight" ... arrow flight, that is.